Richard Jeryan of Greenfield Village at The Henry Ford specializes in weaving. There’s a working Jacquard loom in the village. He is now using a laser cutter at TechShop to create new punch cards for the looms. The traditional way to create a card is to use a custom key puncher. The key puncher is designed for the specific loom, and you can’t use a key puncher from one manufacturer to create cards for a different loom. I didn’t realize that the punch cards were not interchangeable among looms of different manufacture.
“If you had an old loom, but couldn’t find its key puncher, you couldn’t create we designs,” Richard told me. “Now that we can create these cards on a laser cutter, we make them for any loom.” Using a laser cutter is not necessarily faster than having a skilled key puncher do it, he added. He said that setting up a design in a CAD program takes a good amount of time.
Richard’s wife, Chris, also works at Greenfield Village and she can create designs using an eight-key puncher. There are eight columns across a card and fifty rows, in the example below, created mechanically. (The size of cards varies.) Each hole punch represents a thread.
Here is a photo from Richard’s presentation showing the creation of a card with a laser cutter.